Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley spend the night before his operation together, in his hospital room.
Hemingway reminds us that this otherwise peaceful chapter takes place during wartime with allusions to searchlights and the anti-aircraft gun. He sets the stage as well with carefully chosen specifics: the smell of the dew outside, for instance, as well as that of the coffee drunk by the gunners on the roof adjacent to the hospital. Such intimate sense details put the reader "in" the scene itself.
The dynamic of Lieutenant Henry's naivete versus Catherine Barkley's experience and maturity is reiterated as Henry tries to make a date for the night after the operation, and she insists he will be in no shape to see her. And the novel's ending is foreshadowed in the couple's playful exchange regarding their children's temperatures and in Catherine's insistence that Henry recuperate so they can go somewhere together: "Maybe the war will be over," she says hopefully. "It can't always go on."
Finally, a discussion of Henry's experience with prostitutes illustrates the difference between sex and true love. He tells Catherine that he has never loved anyone before her but admits to the reader that he is lying to her when he says he's never professed love to a partner. During this scene, the morning sun illuminates the spires of the Milan cathedral, perhaps reminding us of the priest. "I was clean inside and outside and waiting for the doctor," Henry tells us in the next sentence, allying himself with the chaplain rather than Rinaldi and the other officers — at least for the time being.
Stylistically, Chapter XVI consists almost entirely of untagged dialogue. Notice how the content of the quotes as well as their diction (word choice) and syntax (sentence structure) makes attribution for the most part unnecessary. Catherine often addresses Henry as "darling," and her speeches tend to be longer and more overtly emotional than his.
the cathedral Milan's famous cathedral, designed and built in the Gothic style. It is the second-largest church in Italy, after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.